Ugo Rondinone’s celebrated installation Seven Magic Mountains in the Nevada desert will undergo a second maintenance and painting restoration starting next week. The $3.5m work of art outside Las Vegas, comprising seven towering fluorescent limestone cairns that reference natural hoodoo rock formations in the desert, has been subjected to harsh conditions since it opened in 2016, including intense sun exposure, sandblasting and minor vandalism.
The Nevada Museum of Art, which commissioned the work with the Art Production Fund in New York, originally envisioned that the installation would be on view for two years. “But when conversations around removing it began to bubble up, it became apparent that Las Vegas and the world had fallen in love with it,” says David Walker, the director of the museum.
The immersive work of art, which is installed on federally managed land, is painted with environmentally-friendly pigments that tend to fade over time. “The alternative would be highly toxic automotive paint,” Walker says. “We want to strike the right balance between maintaining the vibrant look of the work and not doing something that would harm the environment.”
Visitors will be able to view Seven Magic Mountains from a parking lot during the restoration. The work will be overseen by Rondinone’s studio and a local contractor and will entail cleaning the works with water tanks and priming and repainting the totems. Throughout the year, the Nevada Museum of Art is also tasked with maintaining the parking lot, updating signage that is damaged from time to time and cleaning up trash that is discarded by visitors.
The work was last restored in 2019, thanks in part to a $150,000 grant from MGM Resorts International and private donations. The current renovation is projected to cost less than $100,000. “The work takes a lot of attention and money, but we are proud that after five years we continue to make the artwork free to the public, and are happy to see how much joy it brings to our region,” Walker says.
More than two million people have visited the installation since it opened. Organisers are in the process of applying for a new five-year permit for the artwork, which must be approved by the Bureau of Land Management and Clark County. “We can’t project further than that right now, but the idea is that all of us want to continue to see the work where it is for as long as we can keep it there,” Walker says.